Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State #31
Size/Athleticism: Adequate height and overall size. Timed speed was exceptional at combine, but it doesn’t translate to the field. Straight-line speed is decent, but he doesn’t have the quickness and fluid movements to match.
Coverage: Extremely physical and excels in press coverage. But his physical play may also be his biggest downfall. He puts his hands all over receivers, especially when he starts to lose ground and will consistently be called for penalties at the next level with his approach. Lacks the quick footwork to stay with more athletic receivers when he isn’t able to jam them at the line of scrimmage.
Ball skills: Great awareness. Does a nice job keeping an eye on the receiver and the quarterback when he’s in his backpedal and the play is still developing in front of him. Shows decent body control when going up to contest for the ball.
Run support: Easily the best cornerback in this class in terms of run support. He isn’t afraid to step up and help out and will take on bigger ball carriers. Capable of making strong wrap-up tackles. Can be late to diagnose the run at times, but has decent speed to recover.
Intangibles: A team leader who was respected by coaches and teammates. Clearly looked to as a leader on the sideline.
Durability: Played through a sports hernia in 2013 which required multiple surgeries. Slowed by a shoulder injury in 2012.
Comments: Dennard is a tough one to figure out. His willingness to play a physical style of football is an encouraging sign, but he takes it beyond what the NFL will allow. Based on NFL rules, his college performance would have resulted in double digit penalties per game. And when you take out his physical play, there are some questions about how his athleticism translates to the NFL. There will probably be some growing pains as he adjust to the NFL, but he’s a hard worker and he’s probably a guy worth betting on.
Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State #4
Size/Athleticism: Adequate height and bulk. A very fluid natural athlete. Has experience returning kicks and will likely play a role on special teams early in his career.
Coverage: Great natural athleticism and excels in man coverage. Very smooth and fluid in his backpedal and has the quick hips to turn and run with receivers. Has the straight-line speed to stay with just about any receiver. Not very physical with receivers, but has exceptionally quick feet which allows him to play up at the line of scrimmage and mirror receivers right off the snap, without needing to get physical to slow them down. Inconsistent in terms of reading the quarterback in zone coverage. Lets a lot of underneath throws go uncontested due to late reactions.
Ball skills: Poor awareness on the field. He can mirror his receiver, but he doesn’t react to the ball. Allows a lot of receptions, even in tight coverage because he fails to react and play the ball. Can come down with the interception when he’s in position, but he does see the ball often enough.
Run support: Elite closing speed. Somewhat hesitant to help out, but will make plays when he has to.
Intangibles: Displayed lack of effort early in career which he has admitted, and didn’t fully get along with coaches. Matured late in career, but lack of fundamentals was still apparent.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: Gilbert is among the most talent defensive backs in this class, but it didn’t always translate to success in college. He tried to win with pure athleticism too often, and savvy receiver/quarterback duos took advantage of him. He has legitimate star potential, but it will require commitment on his part to master the fundamentals to reach that level.
Jason Verrett CB TCU #2
Size/Athleticism: Less than ideal height and overall bulk. Very short arms (30.5″) which further limits his ability to be effective against bigger receivers. Elite speed. A very fluid, natural athlete.
Coverage: Has the speed to run with any receiver. Will struggle in certain matchups, especially when battling for jump balls with more physical receivers. Elite leaping ability, but due to his height and short arms he still struggles to battle for jump balls against bigger receivers. Gets pushed around easily. Occasionally lined up deep in zone coverage, essentially acting as an extra safety in certain sets for TCU. Savvy in his approach and is capable of positioning himself inside or outside the receiver to dictate their movement, especially against smaller receivers who can’t easily fight through him.
Ball skills: Does a great job reading the quarterback and is capable of adjusting to the ball like a receiver. Exceptional body control and is capable of making some acrobatic attempts to get his hand on the ball.
Run support: Elite closing speed. Used on blitzes occasionally and can be disruptive due to the speed at which he can fly into the backfield. Does not back down against bigger running backs. Not a strong wrap-up tackler due to his size, but closes quickly enough that he can consistently wrap up the ball carrier around the legs.
Intangibles: Did not receive any scholarship offers out of high school. Recruited to TCU out of JUCO in 2011. Worked hard to get where he is and is well respected by teammates and coaches. Tough and willing to play through injuries.
Durability: Played through a torn labrum in 2013 and underwent surgery after his pro day in March which may delay his participate in offseason workouts as a rookie. Played through a torn meniscus in 2012 and delayed surgery until the offseason.
Comments: Verrett doesn’t have the measurables, but you can’t ignore his production. He’s a high-energy, high-effort playmaker who jumps out when watching TCU. His physical tools definitely limit his game and he will struggle in certain matchups at the next level. But he has the tools to be a starting cornerback and will excel immediately if he can be paired with a bigger corner to handle the more physical matchups.
Telvin Smith LB Florida State #22
Size/Athleticism: Vastly undersized which will severely limit his role until he bulks up. May be considered an oversized safety by some teams due to his lack of bulk. Elite athleticism for the position. Not only fast enough to play sideline to sideline, but also shows great balance and agility to avoid blockers when playing close to the line.
Run Defense: Range is his best asset. Does a great job diagnosing the play and taking correct angles. Fast enough to make plays in pursuit and will chase down some ball carriers from behind. Mostly serves as a last line of defense against the run. Doesn’t have the strength to mix it up at the line of scrimmages and rarely makes impact plays. Great closing speed and a reliable tackler. Can wrap guys up in the open field.
Pass Rush: Can be effective as a situational blitzer, but he isn’t a pure pass-rusher. Simply lacks the strength to be effective and can only get into the backfield when he’s the extra blitzer and essentially goes in unblocked, or with the element of surprise on a delayed blitz. Easily shut down once he’s engaged in a block.
Coverage: Does a nice job in zone coverage of reading the quarterback and putting himself in position to make plays. Somewhat inexperience dropping in coverage against tight ends. Man coverage assignments were often on running backs coming out into the flat.
Intangibles: Only a one-year starter. Suspended for a game in 2011. Plenty of experience on special teams.
Durability: No known issues, although his lack of size raises some concern.
Comments: Smith can be an effective weapon but every team will view him different due to his lack of size. He isn’t the type of linebacker who can mix it up on the line and against the run, he’s basically a last line of defense. While he makes plays against the run, he’s really more of a liability because of his inability to generate stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. His best asset at the next level will be his athleticism in coverage. He’s already very good at dropping in zone and reading the quarterback and has the raw skills to develop into an asset in man coverage.
Jeremiah Attaochu LB Georgia Tech #45
Size/Athleticism: Adequate overall size. Relatively long arms. Impressively straight line speed and shows quality overall athleticism. Looks very fluid in his movements and has the agility to give offensive linemen issues as an edge-rusher.
Run Defense: Impressive balance and change of direction ability for his size allows him to adjust and make plays in pursuit. Does a great job working through traffic in pursuit. Struggles to anchor at the point of attack. May be a liability in this area if he lands in a 4-3 scheme.
Pass Rush: Quick first step off the edge. Strong enough to bull-rush and shed blocks. Impressive burst and acceleration. Closes quickly and can deliver a big hit on the quarterback. Doesn’t show many pass-rush moves, relies on his ability to win with speed. Can shed blocks and gives a great second effort but needs to develop a repertoire of moves. Surprisingly effective blitzing on the inside—hits gaps quickly and has the power and balance to work through off-balance attempts from blockers.
Coverage: Limited experience dropping into zone coverage. Can drop and cover a short area but will struggle in man assignments. Likely not be asked to drop often at next level.
Intangibles: Born in Nigeria. Has a reputation as a hard worker.
Durability: Missed one game in 2012 with an undisclosed injury. Missed time with a leg injury in 2011. Suffered a hamstring injury during the Senior Bowl which prevented him from working out at the combine.
Comments: Attaochu doesn’t really have first-round talent in any one area, but he’s extremely solid across the board. His second effort as a pass-rusher is among the best in this class, as he consistently disengages and comes back with a nice burst. His ability to accelerate and generate momentum in tight spaces gives him potential to be a disruptive force in the backfield. He probably fits best in a 3-4 scheme, but has experience playing with his hand on the ground also.